- Paperback: 180 pages
- Publisher: Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd; Reissue edition (March 1, 1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0714526150
- ISBN-13: 978-0714526157
- Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,033,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Decoding Advertisements (Ideas in Progress) Paperback – March 1, 1994
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As far as content, I ordered several books from Amazon at the same time and will probably read this one last because it is so marked-up as to be distracting. It is a frequently recommended book on the subject, however, so I doubt I will be unhappy with the content.
This book covers the primary basics you need to begin to see through the Matrix in which you are caught. Williamson introduces all the major psycho-formal techniques that abstractly underlie all advertisement and propaganda.
Despite too much jargon and over-writing, this book is so good one hates to dwell on the weaknesses. First it is truly dated. All the sample ads are from the 70's. But that isn't so bad in that all the same techniques are in use today. Then the graphics aren't great, for a book devoted to analyzing graphics, the repro's are too small, in the margins, and only in black and whilte (that last particularly irritating in her section on use of color). I'd rather she had cut out some of the theoretical jargon and devoted the saved space to better/more/bigger graphics, perhaps a coffee table book is needed? In fact, her little offset paragraphs, where she cans the theoretical verbiage and pulls off the gloves and gets into throw-down mode (one such offset paragraph per sample ad), are the heart and soul of the book - the entire book could have been just these gems, buffered by a succint introduction.
Another beef I have is that sometimes even her "wheels to the pavement" (text offset paragraphs) deconstructions of the sample ads seem to pull punches sometimes. Maybe it is just due to lack of space, maybe it's her wish to focus on illustrating just one main principle at a time, maybe it is simple prudishness? Whatever the reason, she misses A LOT of nasty stuff in her ad samples, and it is mostly sex stuff she's omitting.
I'm not talking here about the old 50's thing with secret dirty words written in ice cubes. That subliminal stuff is fun but whether it is true or not, it is a sideshow. She could have gotten plenty of milage without those controversial subtleties just by pointing out the most outrageously obvious uses of sexual imagery and symbolism in practically every ad. But she goes very lightly on this angle. She does include a brief section on use of sex, with a few obvious and tame/lame examples, but in fact almost every single ad had this and she just doesn't point it out.
For example, her A10 ad, with a woman cradling a man's head at her breast, his mouth gaping open like a baby. Maybe she thought it is just too obvious to mention? But we need to acknowledge what's going on to begin to understand how we are being played. The ubiquitous use of women with their legs open or splayed - again zero comment from her, though she must know these postures are very carefully crafted and used by the designers.
For example in her very first ad of Chapter 1, A2, she gives a great analysis of the use of color and space in the scene, but totally omits to comment that the woman's legs (only hers) are opened and she (not the man) is holding her long tall drink between them. Yes it is all very obvious in a way, once you begin to know how to look consciously at ads. But then so are many other things she discusses at much greater length. We are turning to her for help in precisely that - flicking the switch to conscious perception, and her almost total omission of the use of sex imagery is not helpful.
Not only sex but other powerful attributes of the images and texts (e.g. implicit violence) are missed by her analysis.
Anyway, it is a GREAT book for its time, and a must-read as you begin to dig your own tunnel out thru the Matrix prison walls.
But what I really want to know is, apart from Williamson's type of 'outsider' purely academic analysis, how explicitly are students of marketing and advertising, who end up as professional creating this stuff, taught how to use these precise languages of form and text and so on, that enable them to bore a chunnel right into the base of your brain? I mean does a Professor stand up somewhere with some textbook and say "Now students, remember to always pose the woman with her legs spread in the center of every shot, while making it appear natural and accidental. And always position your phallic objects thusly ..." ??
Is that happening, in some lecture room? Or is not only the INTERPRETATION of ads happening at the pre-conscious level, but even the CREATION of them as well?
What a world! It is mind control all the way down, starting with our genetically coded fixation with the human face (count how many media representations you see of a human face each day!)
Anyway just read this book, let it be a file in your cake.
As to the book itself, it could have been much better, but lacks tech quality in printing, design, layout. Also, the author seems to carry an immense burden of prudishness, bias, and political correctness, and this also harms the book.
With a little better thought, and a little more craftsmanship and attention to detail, it could have been great. But it barely rises to 3 stars, and that rating is deucedly generous.